Day 56: Henri Learns the Language

The facts

“Now we’ll jus’ have a minute to think of what things to do,” said William, “an’ then I’ll begin.”
The game of Jasmine Villas was “taken on” beyond all expectations. Mr Burwash stole Miss Milton’s washing during her afternoon siesta, Mr Buck locked up Mr Luton in his coal cellar and ate up all his provisions, and always the entire population of Jasmine Villas was chased round the field by Henry, the policeman, several times during a game.

  • Number: 5.2
  • Published: 1925 (1924 in magazine form)
  • Book: Still William
  • Synopsis: The Outlaws re-enact village life to help teach colloquial English to a visiting French boy.


Joan, unhappy about being typecast as a squaw in the Outlaws’ games, suggested playing at “ordinary people”. With William’s agreement (“I don’ mind playin’ ornery people s’long as we don’ do ornery things”), then, they decide to enact a day in the life of the residents of Jasmine Villas, a local housing terrace. (Miss Milton in particular becomes a stock figure in many subsequent stories.)

And thus the first soap opera is born.

Joan was the only girl whose existence the Outlaws officially recognised.

Unfortunately William never thinks to use it as an organised play, because it is certainly successful beyond his wildest dreams.

And it does gain an audience: Henri, the godson of a neighbour, is visiting from France and, determined to learn colloquial English, attaches himself to the Outlaws.

Unfortunately he doesn’t quite realise that the ‘Jasmine Villas’ he is watching is a game and not real life: this leads to General Moult, another well-used character making his first appearance, being imprisoned (in real life) in an upstairs bedroom, and Mr Graham Graham, president of the Temperance Society, being punched down a flight of steps.

All in a day’s work for the – on this occasion, genuinely innocent – Outlaws.